Get to Know Your Keys: An Introduction to Key Types

When was the last time you looked at your keys? Not looked for your keys, but at them.


Did you ever notice their sharp edges or deep-cut ridges? Perhaps you have a key with a rounded tube at the end, or maybe it has pits instead of ridges.

Your key's design plays a crucial role in your home and business's security. Each ridge, dip, and curve influences the way the key slides into your lock. If the shape of the key doesn't align perfectly, you'll have a difficult time opening the lock.

Take a look at these common key types to see how your keys compare.


Most Common House and Car Keys

While many keys have unique shapes and sizes to fit their specific locks, most house and car keys fall into the same category. The most common types include:

Single and Double-Bitted Key
The bit of a key is the part that comes into contact with the internal components of the lock. The cut and shape of the bit allows the key to push the locking mechanism into different positions.

A single-bitted key features cuts on one side of the key, while a double-bitted key has cuts on both sides. Many homes rely on single-bitted keys, while higher security locks use double-bitted keys.

Convenience Key
Convenience keys, as their name implies, are designed for convenience. They feature duplicate bitted edges, but the lock only has one bitting surface. This enables you to insert your key in either direction. Many modern car keys are convenience keys, so you can quickly start the ignition and go on your way.

Cruciform Key
Also known as four-sided keys, cruciform keys have an unmistakable X-shape tip. Unlike single and double-bitted keys, the cruciform key has four bitted edges. But like a convenience key, the cruciform key might not use all of these surfaces to open the lock, enabling you to insert the key in either direction.

Because cruciform keys have multiple surfaces, they offer an extra layer of security. Thieves will have a much harder time picking a cruciform lock than other lock types. Some homeowners opt for cruciform keys to amplify their home security or to protect valuable items displayed in a showcase or cabinet. But high-security industrial businesses also commonly use these keys.

Transponder Key
Transponder keys have a small chip in the handle of the key (the head or fob). This chip emits a signal to the electronic control unit (ECU) in your car. If the signal doesn't match your car, the key will not allow your car to operate.

You can read more about transponder keys at our earlier blog post.

Valet Key
Often times, high-end vehicles will come with a separate set of valet keys in addition to their regular convenience transponder keys. Valet keys can start and lock the car, but they cannot open the glove compartment or built-in lock boxes. These enable the valet to do his or her job while protecting your valuables from theft.


Unusual Key Types

Keys aren't limited to your front door or in-floor safe. Technology has advanced to include a variety of unusual keys for specific security situations.

Tubular Key
Also known as barrel keys, tubular keys feature a cylindrical shaft rather than a flat shaft. These keys are often more difficult to duplicate than standard single- and multi-bitted keys because of their rounded shape.

Many people rely on tubular keys for standard vending machine locks, as well as bike locks and coin-operated washing machines. They do this because tubular locks and keys don't have the same depth requirements as traditional single-bitted and multi-bitted keys.


Lost Your Keys?

While the above key types are fascinating, they won't do you much good if you've lost your own keys. If you can't find your keys, call a local locksmith to replace them.

Affordable Lock offers key cutting services in Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Markham, and throughout the GTA.


Affordable Lock is a locksmith in Markham serving the Greater Toronto Area, including Scarborough, Aurora, North York, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Stouffville. With over 30 years of experience, we pride ourselves on looking after your commercial or residential locksmith needs. Affordable Lock’s showroom in Markham showcases a wide selection of keys, locks and an assortment of other security products for your home or business. Whether you are looking to upgrade your home or business’s security, or solve security issues, Affordable Lock Services Inc. in Markham is here for you! Give us a call today.

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